We recently talked to author/educator B. Sharise Moore, who’s currently crowdfunding her latest project, Conjuring Worlds: An Afrofuturist Textbook, on Indiegogo. The book of Afrofuturist poetry, prose, art, and cross-curricular extension activities is geared toward middle schoolers. Moore told us all about Conjuring Worlds, her favorite spec fic creators and works and how despite everything, 2020 isn’t so bad for her.
Midwest BSFA: Tell us about yourself.
Moore: I am an educator, author, and curriculum designer. I was born and raised in New Jersey, but I relocated to Maryland after graduating from Rutgers University. I now live in Baltimore with my husband and three-year-old son. My early influences are Roald Dahl and Judy Blume. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing were my favorite novels as a child. I swore I’d write the “Black version” of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when I was in second grade. Ironically, I didn’t start writing short stories or novels until adulthood, but I did try my hand at writing stage plays. As a teenager and young adult, I chiefly wrote and performed poetry. I participated in the National Poetry Slam with the New Jersey Slam team and featured at the legendary NuYorican Poets Cafe among other venues around the country. I began writing speculative poetry in my late teens and discovered Octavia Butler’s work in the early 2000s. In 2005, I took my first stab at writing speculative fiction.
Midwest BFSA: How did you come up with the concept for Conjuring Worlds: An Afrofuturist Textbook?
Moore: I’ve been a huge fan of speculative fiction since I was a child and I noticed how infrequently we’d study speculative (fantasy, science fiction, magical realism) stories in school. When I got to college, I recall a professor stating that speculative stories weren’t high brow enough for study. I always resented that belief. Now that I’m a teacher, I have seen very few speculative/Afrofuturist texts in public school curriculum other than Butler’s Kindred and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. Ytasha L. Womack, author of Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-fi and Fantasy Culture, described Afrofuturism as “an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation.” The Conjuring Worlds textbook will feature original works (short stories, poetry, non-fiction articles, and artwork) commissioned from Black creators. Each work will be accompanied by extension activities appropriate for middle school students. Each year, our mythology unit is rated the most popular by my 6th graders. Students want to be imaginative. Many of them want to create new worlds and extraordinary characters. I wanted to provide them with a textbook that engages and challenges them. Likewise, it is important that they see themselves in their learning. The mythology unit is Greek mythology centered. I’m also creating this textbook with homeschoolers in mind. Oftentimes, homeschoolers face the challenge of piecemealing their materials of instruction. I wanted to create a textbook where many of the lessons they needed were at their fingertips.
Midwest BSFA: What other projects have you worked on besides Conjuring Worlds?
Moore: Last summer, I wrote curriculum for the county I work for. I created a complete novel study/curriculum for Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. I’ve also worked with Materials of Instruction committees and designed my own online writing courses. Right now, I’m teaching an online writing course called “Your World on the Page: Afrofuturist Novel Writing” for youth ages 10-14 through the Sankofa Homeschool Collective. The class is using Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia as a guiding text. I also teach a similar novella writing course for adults using The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djeli Clark as the guiding text.
Midwest BSFA: Why did you want to participate in The City (cyberfunk anthology)? What drew you to that project?
Moore: Milton Davis has long been a friend and supporter of my work. He’s a fantastic author and publisher. I’ve been reading the stories he’s created for more than a decade and I wanted to work with him. I’d never written cyberfunk before and I fell in love with The City‘s manifesto written by him and Balogun Ojetade.
Midwest BFSA: Who are your favorite speculative fiction creators (any genre and/or medium) and why?
Moore: My favorite speculative fiction creators are Octavia Butler, Tananarive Due, P. Djeli Clark, LA Banks, Andre 3000 and Lupe Fiasco. They are my favorite emcees. Octavia’s work holds humans accountable for their missteps and offers viable solutions for forward progress. Tananarive’s characters are relatable, redeemable, and compelling. P. Djeli Clark creates worlds that are lush and inviting. I am always blown away by the carefully researched details he includes in his work. LA Banks’s work was inspiring. After reading her work, I had the confidence to write my own stories. I’ve been a fan of Andre 3000’s creativity for years. I am inspired by the chances he takes with his art. Lupe Fiasco is constantly pushing the envelope. His last album Drogas Wave was speculative in its approach. I was blown away by a number of songs on the album.
Midwest BSFA: What are some of the benefits and setbacks of indie publishing?
Moore: The benefit of indie publishing is control. I love having sole control over my entire project. That doesn’t mean I do everything. I don’t. I seek out people who are great at what they do to help make the project amazing, but indie publishers have the final say over their projects. A setback is the cost. Sole control means you are responsible for everything, even the things that don’t work out so well. When I self-published a novel several years ago, I had an issue with hiring and paying individuals who never completed the jobs they’d agreed to do. Those were hard lessons but I’ve learned.
Midwest BSFA: We know 2020 is pretty much a dumpster fire but what are your goals for the rest of the year?
Moore: Ironically, 2020 has been one of the best and most productive years of my life. I launched Conjure World, LLC that provides online writing courses and custom novel studies for indie authors. My debut YA magical realism novel Dr. Marvellus Djinn’s Odd Scholars will also be released in the fall via MV Media. I’m also working on a YA novel in verse and vignettes.
Midwest BSFA: Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
The campaign is still going strong! Please donate, RT, and share where you can. We’re 76% funded with 25 days to go. Be sure to check out https://www.mvmediaatl.com/post/eleven-questions-with-b-sharise-moore for more info!